Mont Blanc glacier melt reveals newspapers from suspected plane crash in 1966

Editions are thought to have been onboard an Air India Boeing 707, which crashed in the French Alps in January 1966 killing 177 people

Louise Boyle
New York
Monday 13 July 2020 19:22 BST
Les Bossons glacier melt in Chamonix

The Mont Blanc glacier in the French Alps is melting rapidly amid the climate crisis and unearthing the secrets of the past as it disappears.

Last week, Indian newspapers were the latest items to be uncovered, believed to have come from a 1966 plane crash. The headlines told of Indira Gandhi becoming India‘s first and, so far, only female prime minister that year.

The editions of the National Herald and The Economic Times are thought to have been on board an Air India Boeing 707, travelling from Mumbai to London, that crashed on the mountain on 24 January, 1966. Some 177 people died.

The 54-year-old newspapers were discovered by Timothee Mottin, who runs a cafe-restaurant, La Cabane du Cerro, perched at an altitude of 4,455ft near the Chamonix skiing hub.

Mr Mottin, 33, told the Agence France-Press news agency: “They are drying now but they are in very good condition. You can read them.”

The cafe is located about a 45-minute walk from the foot of the Bossons glacier where the plane went down.

Mr Mottin said he came across the newspapers after the ice that encased them ”had probably just melted”.

He said he would display the newspapers with a growing collection of items from the crash, rather than “hide them in an attic waiting to sell them”, something he said had become a “business” for unscrupulous climbers.

In 2017, human remains were found in the area, believed to be from the 1966 crash or that of another Indian plane, the Malabar Princess, that came down in roughly the same area in 1950.

The dramatic ice loss on Mont Blanc in pictures taken last year and a century ago
The dramatic ice loss on Mont Blanc in pictures taken last year and a century ago (Walter Mittelholzer, ETH-Bibliothek/Dr Kieran Baxter, University of Dundee)

In 2013 a box of emeralds, sapphires and rubies was discovered and linked to the crash. It was valued at up to €246,000 ($275,000, £222,000).

Last year, scientists flew over the Bossons glacier, the Mer de Glace, and the Argentière glacier on the northern side of the Mont Blanc massif to document the dramatic scale of the ice loss by comparing the scene with pictures from a century ago.

Global heating has contributed to a decrease in glacial mass throughout the Alps. A report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found last year that glacier melt is happening faster than before and is accelerating.

Additional reporting by agencies

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